Dodo birds are perhaps known best for becoming extinct. Well, we kind of drove them to extinction, but we seem to forget about that. Instead, we focus so much on how dumb they were for becoming extinct that their name has basically become synonym with stupidity. But we might have been wrong all this time, as according to a new study from the American Museum of Natural History, dodo birds were not dodos – they were in fact smart.
The dodo skull
In order to figure out if their mainstream representation as being very stupid was in fact accurate, Ph.D Eugenia Gold from the American Museum of Natural History went in search of a skull belonging to one of the mythically stupid creatures. She proceeded to put the skull through a CT scan.
She then went on to make virtual brain endocasts of the dodo, of seven different species of pigeon, as well as of the dodo’s close relative, Rodrigues solitaire. This led her to figure out a couple of things – not only was the dodo not as stupid as everybody seems to believe it was, but it was as smart as a pigeon.
As smart as a pigeon
“But that’s not at all that impressive”, you might think. “Pigeons aren’t that smart, they’re still bird-brains” you might continue in your ignorance of the long-respected tradition of pigeon training. Yes, pigeons really aren’t that stupid either; with some training, they can become quite intelligent animals.
Pigeons are generally believed to possess a medium level of intelligence, considered to be one of the most intelligent birds on the planet. They can fetch, use tools, learn complicated maneuvers, and they can find their way home from hundreds of miles away.
Discovered on the Mauritius Island in the late 1500s, the dodos were living off a diet of small mammals, crustaceans, and fish, which they’d hunt and catch with the use of their particularly adept sense of smell. Their downfall began with the arrival of humans on the island, as we pretty much slaughtered them to extinction.
Not used to humans on the island, the birds initially weren’t afraid of the men getting down from their ships. This made it easy for starving seamen to herd them onto their vessels in order to consume their particularly tasty meat.
Invasive and aggressive species were also introduced to the island, making it even harder for the now unadjusted birds to survive. This led to the extinction of the species in roughly 100 years after the birds were discovered. The latest confirmed sighting was in 1690, marking the end for the big flightless birds.
Image source: Wikimedia